Making Blood Tests Easier for Kids
Sarah Keogh RD
Coeliac disease can come with plenty of difficulties but getting kids to have their blood tests can be particularly tough. There are the blood tests needed for diagnosis (usually at least two) and then checks at 3 months, 6 months, and then every year after diagnosis. Adults can mentally get themselves ready for tests (let’s face it: no one likes them) but it can be a lot harder to prepare a younger child. Is there anything that makes blood tests easier?
There is nothing that is going to change the fact that a needle is going in, but letting your child know what to expect can help. For lots of children it is not just the needle that makes them nervous. Hospitals are big, busy, places with lots of noise. It is an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar sounds and they can be overwhelmed before they even get to the blood test room. If your child is nervous – and you have time – it can help to visit the hospital a week or two before the blood test, walk them through, talk to them about the different sections and let them ask questions. Then go for ice cream or what ever treat they like. It helps to make the hospital more familiar and they associate it with something nice afterwards.
What to do:
- Make sure your child is well hydrated. It is much easier to get blood from a nice, fat, well hydrated vein. Being dehydrated can mean the phlebotomist has to poke the needle into a few places to find a good vein. Make sure they drink plenty of water or gluten free squash the day before. Get them to drink plenty of water/squash on the way to the blood test.
- Make sure they are not hungry – eat a meal within 2 hours of the test. Being hungry makes everyone cranky and we all feel more relaxed after eating.
- Give them something sugary around 15 minutes before the blood test. Sugar helps children to feel less pain (this is actually true!) and the carbohydrate helps them feel more relaxed. Gluten free chocolate, jellies or a soft drink can all work well.
- Distract them with a video on a phone -if they will use headphones that’s even better. If they are focused on something else, it can be a lot easier.
- Younger children can feel much safer sitting on your knee for the test, that close contact with their parent can be very reassuring.
- Stay calm yourself! This can be easier said than done, but if you are anxious, kids can pick up on it too. Leave plenty of time to get to the blood test so no one is stressed by being late. Plan out parking – there is limited parking at lots of hospitals – and remember to bring coins or credit cards or what ever you will need. You can check the hospital website for parking information. Give yourself time to find where the blood test is taking place so that the whole experience is as relaxed as possible for everyone.
- The person taking the blood test will often use a cold-spray to numb the area. This worth using. However, it is very cold so you might practice rubbing an ice cube on your child’s arm beforehand, so they know what to expect.
- Go and have a treat afterwards. This helps them to forget the test and focus on the nice food they are eating. It might make it easier when they have to go back for the next one…